Rays' 'Truck Day' goes off without a hitch

Rays' 'Truck Day' goes off without a hitch

ST. PETERSBURG -- Tropicana Field's underbelly hosted a bevy of activity Monday morning. Two 26-foot trucks were loaded with the essentials for the Rays to conduct Spring Training, then headed south to Port Charlotte.

"Truck Day" signals one thing: Spring Training is just around the corner.

The clubhouse staff has prepped for this day since Jan. 6, when the packing began.

"You're always excited for this day," said Jose Fernandez, the Rays' home clubhouse manager. "There's a lot of excitement about the start of the season, and you know you'll see the players soon."

All kinds of items could be found inside the pair of trucks: 150 sets of uniforms, 70 dozen bats, 65 cases of baseballs, 100 boxes with training supplies, and 30 cases of bubble gum. Mixed in with all the shoelaces, sports drinks and miscellaneous items, there were even several car seats for players with small children.

After driving to Charlotte Sports Park, the clubhouse staff will need a couple of hours to unload the trucks. Then, they will spend two days unpacking the boxes and putting everything where it needs to go. They have a little breathing room, as the first workout for pitchers and catchers is Feb. 14, and the first full squad workout is Feb. 19.

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The Rays have conducted their Spring Training operations in Port Charlotte since 2009. Prior to that, they held Spring Training in St. Petersburg, so the clubhouse staff did not face such a production. Given the number of years the team has been in Port Charlotte, Fernandez allowed that the process is now familiar.

"Anytime you do something every year, it gets easier and easier," Fernandez said. "But it's stressful. You don't want to forget something. You worry about a player showing up and you didn't pack his bats."

Despite the anxiety caused by countless to-do lists, Fernandez noted that Monday brought a special day.

"Once you finish truck day, it hits you that Spring Training is here," Fernandez said.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.